The Houston Rockets announced their five necessary cuts to reach the maximum roster limit of 15 in preparation for the season opener in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Tuesday. None should come as a surprise. Veterans, forward Jeff Adrien and guard Ish Smith, were each waived after each signed a one-year deal guaranteed at the minimum salary with the Rockets this offseason.
Second-year forward Robert Covington was also waived. He had not been practicing with the team for nearly two weeks, so this move was well-known to be forthcoming.
Adrien had a strong finish to his season last year, but did nothing to distinguish himself in preseason action. He was well-liked by the team and by the coaching staff, there just was not a spot for him at the current time.
Smith impressed in practice with his ability to push tempo and finds teammates. He’s clearly a pass-first point guard, which head coach Kevin McHale liked, but he is a well-below average offensive player, who simply can not make a jumper, let alone a 3-point jumper. Second-year guard Isaiah Canaan is an offensive dynamo who can shoot. He made 5-fo-6 3-pointers in the preseason finale and shot 50 percent on 3-pointers (10-of-20) overall in the preseason.
The Rockets depth chart is unknown, but likely looks something like this:
PG Beverley, Canaan, Johnson
SG Harden, Terry, Daniels
SF Ariza, Papanikolaou, Garcia
PF Jones, Motiejunas
C Howard, Black, Dorsey, Capela
Veterans added this offseason, along with Trevor Ariza who will be the starting small forward, that made the final roster include 37-year old Jason Terry and 30-year old Joey Dorsey. Terry will likely provide similar leadership that Francisco Garcia brings, but will need to be a reliable 3-point shooter to find significant court time.
Dorsey signed a two-year guaranteed deal to return to the NBA and the Rockets after playing the last several seasons overseas. He was injured early in camp (foot) and was rusty in his return. His contract situation likely played a role in his getting one of the final spots. There is hope that despite being short for the center position, his athleticism will allow for him to be a competent rim protector and defender in the paint.
Houston also waived Earl Clark and Akeem Richmond, both of whom had been signed within the week. The signings of those two along with Geron Johnson, who was signed and then waived in about a day, were made in an effort to gain their D-league rights for the Rockets affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The 15-man roster will include four NBA rookies. 2014 draft picks Clint Capela and Nick Johnson, along with Kostas Papanikolaou and Tarik Black. Black appears to be have played himself not only onto the team, but into the backup center position behind Dwight Howard. Black averaged 11.8 rebounds per 36 minutes in the preseason.
Papanikolaou, 24, is also likely a part of the early season rotation as he displayed the ability to create for himself and others , while showing extreme confidence that he is now ready for the NBA after playing professionally overseas since he was a teenager.
Nick Johnson and Capela will likely spend plenty of time this season with the Vipers to get as much playing time as possible.